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Perfect harmony: 802.11a takes Europe

Yes, you can use 802.11a here

Despite the power of the US regulator, the FCC, to shape wireless networking standards, there is in fact no worldwide source of rules for the use of radio technology.

This means that any European looking at a new wireless technology arriving from the US, faces up to several years of uncertainty. The technology works fine, and we see it demonstrated. But will we be legal if we use it here?

Will we infringe reserved bands of spectrum? Or will be break rules about broadcast power that differ from country to country?

The 802.11a fast wireless LAN standard has been subject to a lot of this kind of rumour. The standard already faced a hurdle to overcome - the fact that it was pipped to the market by 802.11g, a fast wireless LAN standard on the more familiar 2.4GHz band, as opposed to 802.11a's 5GHz.

Users in Europe have suffered fear that, in using 802.11a, they might infringe some arcane spectrum regulation. That fear has been irrelevant over the last couple of years, during whith time hardly anyone has used 802.11a, but now there are signs that the 5GHz WLAN spec may be rising. Vendors defend the standard, analysts see sales increase, and users speak about improved performance.

Europeans thinking about 802.11a might still be worried that the standard is not legal here. But they need not fear. In February last year, the UK regulator Ofcom, approved 802.11a.

To be pedantic, Europeans are supposed to use a harmonised version of 802.11a, which has been referred to as 802.11h. Anyone selling 802.11a kit in EMEA must adhere to 802.11h, whihc includes two features from the defunct European wireless LAN standard, HIPERLAN.

These features are:

  • Transmit Power Control, which adjusts the power depending on the position of the client, in order to minimise interference with other networks
  • Dynamic Frequency Selection which shuts down the AP if it detects a radar signal.

Most vendors' .11a kit can pass .11h certification by demonstrating that transmit power can be controlled manually.

For more detail, read the white paper from Trapeze.

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